What is Cool about Ballet?

by David on July 3, 2011

I’m bringing up 2 main questions here:

  1. What do you think is cool about ballet?
  2. How should it be highlighted to let others know how cool it is?

I will discuss a few of my ideas, but I really want to hear yours, so be sure to comment!

This post has 2 recent inspirations. David Wilson’s recent post at Dave Tries Ballet called “Ballet Coolness”. Dave pointed out that he took a friend to see some ballet, and they commented that it was “cool.” Dave shared a bunch of great ballet videos, posters, and twitter users that really highlight the coolness of ballet. We all know it is there, but not everyone sees through the stereotypes, so Dave really points out things that blow that stereotype away. I’ve shown a lot of my non-ballet friends some of the videos he links to.

Another inspiration was a recent conversation with a few dancer friends of mine. They are in a really great university dance program, but it hasn’t done much to draw non-dance university crowds to their shows. One of my friends was really talking about all of her plans to get more people to the amazing performances, and to actually get them to embrace the coolness of dance.

These recent inspirations have brought me to these 2 questions. What is it that is so cool, and how do we show others how cool it is? I can only begin to give some of my own ideas, but I know everyone else will have tons more. I just want to put in my ideas, so feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

BLOGGERS: Feel free to write your own post answering these questions and leave a link in the comments.


What is Cool about Ballet?

First, I think there is an inherent coolness in any alternative form of expression, or any art. Art is sometimes covered by a thin layer of stereotypical un-coolness, but when you get past that most people can see that being able to express something in different ways is pretty darn cool.

Skills are cool. It makes me think of Napoleon Dynamite, but everyone is in some way impressed by a skill. Sometimes jealousy might cover that, but I think that people only get jealous when they think they have no chance of getting something. Let people know they can learn a skill too, and they will think it is cool. The cool thing about a skill is that it takes dedication. When someone is skilled at something, it shows they work hard and are committed to something. We generally like people with those traits, so we think skills are cool.

Athleticism is cool. Look around, it is highlighted in advertisements, comic books, movies, everything. However, in many typical situations, athleticism is shown through being better than someone else. Dance and ballet is not so much about competition (even though competition shows may be how people access it). The athleticism of a dancer requires someone to be better than they can possibly be. It is a competition with a self, not so much a domination over another, but it is pretty darn cool.

Confidence is cool. You need confidence in dance. Up to and just before arrogance, confidence is cool. Pick on dancers all you want, but it is pointless to pick on a confident dancer. One of the cool things I find about the confidence of a dancer is that it is practiced. It doesn’t come from nowhere. It is practiced, developed, and portrayed. That makes it even cooler.

Being a rebel is cool. And not everyone dances.

But being a rebel who fits in anywhere is really freaking cool. One of my favorite definitions of cool went something like this: “Someone who can fit in with the punks and the squares without changing who they are.” Never mind my usage of “punk” and “square,” but it is really cool if you can fit into 2 different ends of social spectra, just by who you are. Ballet kind of does that. You can be an artist and express and explore, but there is also a cultured tradition behind it that connects you to the classical. You have credential and street-cred.


How do we show how Cool Ballet is?

The first thing I think that needs to be done, is breaking away from the stereotypes of lame, boring, up-tight classical ballet. At least a little bit. But, we still really need to be authentic when we do that. We should stick to what we really believe, and not just try to pander to what we think people think is cool. That is why I think it is so important to think about what WE think is so cool about it first. I believe that there are failed examples of trying to get others to think ballet is cool. Most of the examples I see are in trying to make ballet cool to guys: “You get to hang around with girls” or “It helps you with sports.” Do any of us really find that cool? No. It is either creepy or lame, not cool. It is just an attempt to try and guess what other people care about. Stop guessing, be true to what you care about, and others will find it cool as well.

Movies, stories, etc usually show a bit of ballet cool. Sometimes it might just be the moves that come across as cool. Sometimes ballet movies play off the same stereotypes that make it hard for people to connect with ballet. Movies or stories that really show the cool parts, like learning a skill, becoming confident, expressing something, those do a good job of making ballet look cool.

Anything viral. Isn’t everything viral cool? Those short ballet videos Dave showed in his post or anything you can share on Facebook that shows how ballet is cool. That helps it. It helps with marketing individual performances or dancers, but also helps promote the art in general.

T-shirts. I believe, that in some subtle way, cool t-shirts about ballet will support an embraceable lifestyle around ballet. People wear skateboard t-shirts and don’t skateboard. People wear mixed martial arts shirts and never get into a cage match. I believe that eventually people will wear ballet t-shirts because they think that lifestyle is darn cool, even if they’ve never taken a dance class. That is why I started HD Wear and HD Ballet Design. Both of those companies will be receiving some advances later this year. Part of the discussion I had with my friend was about building a marketing budget just from t-shirt sales to dancers. We had some really cool ideas. Basically, in a decent size company it is possible to sell quality custom t-shirts, to any dancers who want them, at reasonable prices and profit enough to throw a decent post-performance gala to draw in a younger crowd. I could talk more about this forever, and maybe some day I will.

Targeted performances. I think that having more options to take dance out of its very classical setting, and putting it where people have more access to it is great. This happens so much, and it seems to be getting even more popular with the internet.

Collaboration. Ballet collaborating with different genres or media exposes it to more people and shows it isn’t an inflexible form.

These are just some ideas I have. What are your ideas or examples?

tl;dr – Think about what is cool about dance. How would you share that?


Leave a Comment

Previous post: